In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
June, 2012
Regional Report

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Lavender is a must-have for the herb garden and perennial garden. Two in one!

Add Flowering Herbs to the Flower Garden

One of the great things about growing herbs is that they are certainly not just for the herb garden. Many of them can easily hold their own in flower garden. That way you can harvest for cooking or crafts and also just enjoy their beautiful flowers. If you have limited space, herbs do double duty in the perennial garden and they attract beneficial insects as a bonus.

Foliage and Flowers Blend with Perennials
Many herbs have silvery or gray leaves, making them beautiful foils to other perennial and annual flowers. Their flowers are usually in shades of pink, lavender, white, or blue, perfect shades to blend with all other colors in the flower palette.

How to Grow
The plants I'll discuss below are all considered herbs because of their aromatic foliage, and they all have culinary, cosmetic, or medicinal uses. They are all also extremely tough and thrive in dry, infertile soil. As a rule, herbs don't usually need to be watered much, except in extremely dry times. They do need full sun to look their best. Here are some beauties to add to your flower garden.

Anise Hyssop
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) grows in bushy clumps from which arise upright branching stems topped with spikes of lavender-blue flowers in mid to late summer. It gets about 3 feet tall and will self sow.

Bee Balm
Bee balm (Monarda spp.) blooms in early summer with flowers of red, pink, purple, or white. It also grows to about 3 feet tall. If you pinch out half the stems at ground level in mid to late spring, you will have a more attractive display and a longer bloom time. Bee balm is naturally prone to mildew, so look for a disease-resistant variety such as 'Marshall's Delight'.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a sturdy, easy-to-grow herb that blooms with delicate white daisies from early summer to early autumn. The plant will self-sow. If you cut the 2 foot plant to the ground after its first blooms fade, you will get a flush of new growth that will bloom sporadically through the season, but more important, will look fresh and attractive.

English Lavender
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a favorite in the perennial border for its attractive midsummer spikes of purple-blue flowers. But it can also be used as a cosmetic and culinary herb. Try mixing a few lavender flowers in a cup of sugar and leave overnight. Strain them out the next day and you have a wonderfully scented sweetener for iced tea. Some of my favorites cultivars are 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote'. Both bear dark purple flowers and reach
15-18 inches tall.

Culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) comes with all colors of leaves, from very silvery to purple-green to gold-banded to the 'Tricolor' variety with green leaves splashed with cream, pink, and purple. All types grow in shrubby clumps, with oblong leaves and spikes of purple-blue flowers mid to late summer. Sage grows 1-2 feet tall and may not be reliably winter hardy in all areas.

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